For the first time in Quebec province, doctors have injected insulin-producing cells into a patient to treat her type 1 diabetes. This new therapy is an alternative to the more invasive, riskier, and more expensive organ transplant treatment now used for some patients.
Treatment prevents serious complications
More than 300,000 Canadians have type 1diabetes which results from the pancreas’ failure to produce enough insulin. They face a lifetime of monitoring their blood sugar and injecting insulin to regulate their blood sugar and prevent complications such as blindness, stroke, kidney failure and cardiovascular disease.
Collecting islet cells from the pancreas donated after someone dies is a complex procedure developed over a decade at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in Montreal. It took only one hour in May to slowly inject the cells into the liver of a 50-year old woman and a few days to monitor the effect.
Recipient’s ‘life changed’
With just one infusion of cells the patient began producing insulin on her own and no longer had to inject any. The procedure has changed her life.
The MUHC is the only centre in eastern Canada that is able to isolate and transplant human islet cells. It hopes to increase its processing of islet cells and establish a network to distribute them across the region.